EU regulator says she may investigate other major US firms

Competition commissioner tweets ahead of Washington meetings with officials

European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager uses an Apple iPhone to take a picture of the room from the podium as her news conference begins in Washington on Monday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager uses an Apple iPhone to take a picture of the room from the podium as her news conference begins in Washington on Monday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

 

The European Union’s top competition regulator stood by her decision to demand more than $14 billion in tax repayments from Apple and tweeted that she may investigate other major US companies, ahead of meetings with officials in Washington.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s commissioner for competition, will on Monday meet US treasury secretary Jacob J Lew, federal trade commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate finance committee, and other key politicians.

Vestager appeared to confirm on Twitter that inquiries may be launched against companies associated with the Business Roundtable, which on September 16th sent a sharply worded letter to the heads of 28 EU member states. The group says it represents chief executive officers of US companies with $7 trillion in annual revenues, and lists members including Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Kenneth Chenault of American Express.

Vestager was contacted on Twitter by Davide Serra, chief executive officer and founder at Algebris Investments, who tweeted: “Apple : so in the USA there are 185 CEO which think it’s legal to pay 0.05% Taxes in Europe! @ pls check what they pay asap!” She promptly replied: “I will. And I keep thinking about all the CEOs who just make sure that their companies do pay their taxes. They exist too.”

‘Overturn this decision’

In the letter, Business Roundtable said the EU’s decision to recover €13 billion from Apple for alleged illegal state aid “must not be allowed to stand”. “I urge you to work with your colleagues to overturn this decision and seek an end to the use of state aid investigations that override the ability of your country and other EU member states to determine and interpret their own tax laws,” Business Roundtable president John Engler said in the letter.

The group’s interest in the matter “is for respect of the rule of law,” Engler said. “Unless set aside, this EC decision sets a precedent that EU member states do not control their tax affairs.”

In an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt published on Sunday, Vestager defended the decision to pursue the tax-repayment order against Apple. Lew has said the EU’s use of state-aid rules was “not appropriate”.

“It is 100 per cent legitimate to tax profit where it is generated,” Vestager told the newspaper. “From our perspective, it is irritating when American companies pay less in taxes than European ones.”

US officials have derided Brussels on the Apple decision. Washington’s claim that the Apple taxes rightly belong to the US is “difficult to comprehend,” Vestager told Handelsblatt. – (Bloomberg)